Pan di Stelle

I have recently decided to master all aspects of baking, and starting from biscuits was the obvious choice – I have a sweet tooth, after all! This is another Mulino Bianco (see previous post) signature bake, the so-called Pan di Stelle (lit. “bread of stars”). It is a chocolate & hazelnut shortbread biscuits decorated with sugar stars and scattered with more granulated sugar on top. Very easy to make and infinitely tasty to have for breakfast dipped in milk (as I used to do when I was a kid) or as an afternoon snack. For the sake of precision, I used a 50mm cookie cutter and managed to get 5 trays’ worth of biscuits. I also burnt a whole batch, though, so in the end I didn’t end up with a massive amount of biscuits.

Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 30g dark chocolate
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 160g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 20g peeled toasted hazelnuts
  • granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/s tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Method

1. Break up the dark chocolate and melt in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of slightly simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
2. If you’re using unpeeled hazelnuts, peel them and then toast them in a frying pan (by dry frying them for about 5-7 minutes). 
3. Once that is done, tip them in a food processor with 3 tbsp of granulated sugar and whiz until they form a smooth paste. The consistency should be fine and not coarse.
4. Line 5 baking trays.
5. In a big bowl, use a mixer (or a wooden spoon) and cream the butter with the icing sugar until soft and fluffy.
6. Add the hazelnut paste, the egg yolk (keep the white aside), the melted chocolate, milk and honey. Mix thoroughly (I used the electric whisk here as well).
7. Last addition, the flour and bicarb + baking powder. Use your hands and mix the dough/pastry together, scraping the flour which sticks to the bottom of the bowl and mixing it in. If you see the mixture is too crumbly and won’t stick together, add more milk one /teaspoon at a time and mix that in.
8. Tip the dough/pastry on to a floured working surface and bring together to form a round mould. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to about 2-3mm thickness. 
9. Using your cookie cutter (or a glass, for that matter) cut even shapes out of the dough/pastry and put them on the baking trays. See below (this is a new baking tray so I only floured it as it is a non-stick one):

20130209_190940

10. Re-roll the trimmings and roll them out again. Cut more shapes and use all of the dough/pastry until you can’t get any more biscuits out of it.

11. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.

12. Once all of the biscuits are on the lined (or floured) trays, lightly whisk the egg white you had put to the side before and brush them. Put 4 (or 5, as many as you want really) stars on top and then dust with some granulated sugar. Final result below.

20130209_190237

13. Put in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Please keep an eye on them and check they are not turning too dark. I also used the idiot-proof breaking test, that is taking one biscuit out of the oven and leaving it to cool for a minute or so, then trying to break it into half and checking whether it snaps.

14. Once baked, leave the biscuits in their tins to cool completely on racks, then carefully peel off the paper and put in a cookie jar.

Tips

  • When rolling out the pastry/dough, it is fundamental you keep your working surface well-floured as otherwise the biscuits will stick to it and getting them off the working surface will be a nightmare. 
  • In order to put the stars on the biscuits and ensuring an (almost) uniform result, I dipped my index finger in some of the egg white and used it to pick up the small sugar stars.
  • If you don’t want to use already made sugar stars and prefer to make your own instead, you can prepare some royal icing. In my case, I just couldn’t be bothered, although I spent an entire evening sorting through two small tubs of shop-bought sugar stars to separate the white ones from the pink, orange and yellow ones…
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